In December 2023 Bang & Olufsen opened the doors to its new flagship concept on London’s upscale New Bond Street. More than showcasing the brand’s full range of high-performance speakers, headsets, and televisions, the new flagship store has been reimagined as an immersive, luxury shopping experience. It’s one that will be replicated as it rolls out the concept globally to major cities and aims to set itself apart from its technology rivals.
“We want to break away from competing within the black-and-white plastic technology space and build on our own strengths,” says CEO Kristian Teär. “We want to communicate the past with our heritage and technical knowhow but our direction forward is much clearer, to celebrate this concept of luxury, timeless technology.”
Bang & Olufsen Goes Luxury
There’s plenty to say about the three-story Bang & Olufsen London flagship, which covers all the bases of a premium-priced audio and visual brand that has long been renowned for its extreme engineering and minimalist Danish design aesthetic. Its new store takes the brand up a notch aligned with the luxury market.
Kristian Teär, CEO of Bang & Olufsen, says its new brand message is more akin to the luxury watch market than the latest Sony or Samsung showrooms. And its flagship fits right in on a street dripping with designer luxury.
The company says its new approach is predicated on four awareness pillars: cultural, creative, design, and human-centredness. Making the most of its Scandinavian heritage, Bang & Olufsen wants you to know that its exquisitely designed products are investments forever.
The store resonates luxury across its 4,000-square-foot footprint. The first floor showcases B&O’s range of luxury products against a spare Scandinavian backdrop of natural finishes and blonde curved wooden panels. Ceilings throughout are covered in a special acoustic material to make the sound experience as good as it looks.
The lower ground floor has been designed as a “sensorium” (their word, not mine) for the “ultimate sound experience,” with reflective metallic walls and pink carpeting which leads to a closed door to private demonstrations.
The second floor with handmade furniture and a high design tiled bar showcases Bang & Olufsen’s specialist finishes and its refurbishment program, which aims to make its products last forever. It will also be used as an events and demonstration space.
As an upscale store on London’s most upscale shopping street, Bang & Olufsen also intends to integrate local artists into the store similar to the specially commissioned furniture by London artist James Shaw that doubles as seating to inspire customers to contemplate emptying their bank accounts.
Currently, Bang & Olufsen operates around 400 stores worldwide, of which 13 are company-owned stores. Teär anticipates that the total store rollcall is unlikely to grow significantly but says that the new concept will start to appear in those markets in which its affluent customer base spends time. For Teär, that approach will translate into a “bigger and better” suite of international stores that “tell the story of our brand.” So, expect to see the concept appear in the U.S. (there are already two locations in New York), the Middle East and in other key European cities, with the emphasis on co-locating with other luxury brands where consumers and designers shop.
Creating these new customer experiences in Bang & Olufsen branded retail channels and targeting global destinations like London are key to the company’s recently launched Win City strategy. “A strong retail presence in cities such as New York, Paris, and London is key to our future growth, and we will continue to expand our footprint in other key cities in the years to come. Our new flagship store complements our existing presence in the city, including [department stores] Harrods and Selfridges,” says Sidonie Robert-Degove, Head of Global Retail at Bang & Olufsen.
“We have based our strategy on luxury timeless technology,” says Teär who sat down one-on-one with me on one of the store’s luxurious bespoke designer sofas. “We have been synonymous with Danish design and the specialist audio industry in Denmark through our heritage, but we also want to emphasize the timeless nature of what we do and the luxury element,” says the affable Teär, who is helping spearhead not so much a brand relaunch but as a refocus on contemporary luxury. That also means appealing to the younger affluent, bridging the gap among more mature buyers, millennials and Gen Z.
Luxury Watch Playbook
B&O’s luxury approach echoes the traditional positioning taken by many luxury watch brands that emphasize the fact that, unlike most other luxury categories, watches can be handed down through generations. This stance reflects a consumer refocus on the longer-lasting elements of life.
Bang & Olufsen’s new strategy emphasizes its ability to replace modular components and keep its products in working order indefinitely. Given their timeless design, it plays to the company’s brand equity. As a promotional campaign, B&O recently restored 95 turntables built in the 1970s to celebrate its 95th birthday. Sourcing the old units from around the world, they were restored and resold, with buyers lining up to snap up the limited edition offers.
“Even 50 years ago they were thinking about modularity, which meant we were able to replace non-working components and restore the turntables to full working order,” Teär recalls. “The designers were way ahead of their time.”
Bang & Olufsen’s new approach also reflects the growing appetite of high-net-worth individuals to have bespoke products. That means in-store assortments of different finishes and design-your-own options in terms of finishes and color combinations.
Affluent Consumer Base
The store is unashamedly set out to appeal to those with good taste and the deep pockets to buy the company’s premium products. At the same time, it’s a showcase for architects and interior designers who meet with in-store specialists to spec B&O highly designed products for their clients.
Teär admits it’s straight out of the luxury fashion playbook, with affordable accessories and entry-level products (think headsets starting at around $200) designed to attract younger buyers who may eventually find themselves fortunate enough to step up to purchase signature pieces. Given the nature of the products, the strategy is hardly surprising.
“We want to break away from competing within the black-and-white plastic technology space and build on our own strengths,” says Teär. “We want to communicate the past with our heritage and technical knowhow but our direction forward is much clearer, to celebrate this concept of luxury, timeless technology.”